7-5-15 Circles of Trust – Pastor David’s 19th Anniversary

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 All the tribes of Israel gathered at Hebron and said to David, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the days when Saul ruled, it was you who led Israel on our military campaigns.  And YHWH said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel and be our commander of Israel.’” All the elders of Israel came to David at Hebron, and David made a pact with them before YHWH.  Then they anointed David ruler of Israel. David was thirty years old and his reign lasted for forty years. He ruled in Hebron in Judah for seven and a half years, and later reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty three years in Jerusalem. So David took the fortress and renamed it “City of David.”   He built a wall around it, from the supporting terraces and working inward. And David became more and more powerful, for YHWH was with him,

In my clergy Bible study last week, we studied the assigned reading for today from 2nd Samuel which Marilyn read. I was not inclined to preach about David as ruler over Israel, but as we reflected on the passage, it got me to thinking about my 19 years as pastor of this church, and realizing today would be the first day of my 20th year as pastor, i decided to take the opportunity to reflect on the circles of trust which we have grown over these 19 years. Listen for the word of God from the Gospel of Mark for you this day.

Mark 6:1-13 After leaving there, Jesus came into his own town, followed by the disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and the many listeners were astonished and said, “Where did he learn all this?  What is this wisdom that has been granted, and these miracles that are performed by his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Judah and Simon?  Are not his sisters here with us?”  They found these things to be stumbling blocks. Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometowns and among their own relatives and in their own households.” And he could work no miracles there, apart from laying his hands upon a few sick people and healing them, their lack of faith astounded him.  He made the rounds of the neighboring villages instead, and spent time teaching. Then Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs, giving them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts. They were to wear sandals but, he added, “Do not take a spare tunic.” And Jesus said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you leave it, shake off the dust from the soles of your feet as a testimony against them.” And so they set off, proclaiming repentance as they went. They cast out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

July 5, 2015

Circles of Trust

These days the conversation comes up nearly once a week. Someone will ask how long I’ve been a pastor at my church and when I tell them, they say, “Methodist pastors don’t usually stay that long in a church, do they?” Sometimes that leads to a laugh about how they must not have had any place else to put me, sometimes to speculation about how I stayed under the radar, and sometimes to a more boring explanation about how the Methodist system works.

Always the conversation includes me saying that I have been blessed during these 19 years, and that I am having as much fun now as I have ever had as a pastor – creating beautiful worship spaces and innovative liturgies, and being involved in the world with a wonderful congregation and excellent colleagues.

What we rarely get around to talking about in these conversations is the circles of trust that formed to enable us to work together all these years. i have been talking about trust for the last month in this sermon series and I have still not touched some of the basic things I wanted to say. There has been so many other things going on. My next sermon series is called, Nurturing Soul, but it is essentially a continuation of talking about Circles of Trust.

Our LIFE groups are circles of trust, places where we nurture each other’s souls. They are places where we listen to each other without judgment, without offering advice or sympathy or criticism, where we hold each other’s confidence. I’m part of a group like that which meets on the first Thursday of every month for breakfast. It’s called NewCORE, the New Conversation on Race and Ethnicity.

For a while I was frustrated that the group never got around to taking action. Then I realized that listening to each other non-judgmentally about our racial and ethnic history is a powerful action in itself to build trust and nurture the soul. Having a place like that has been so important in my life and in the life of our community.

By the way – and aside from the point of my sermon this morning, one thing I learned this week is about the fastest growing demographic in the United States. Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint – it is not Latinos. The fastest growing demographic in the US is mixed race families. Segregationists were correct. They were opposed to integration because, they warned, it would lead to intermarriage of the races, miscegenation. Well, integration did change us as they warned. It did lead to Black and White people being closer to each other and trusting each other and falling in love and marrying and creating beautiful families of many hues.

Last week, St. Luke took two significant votes – to become part of the interfaith network of POWER and to become a Reconciling Congregation. I want to make clear that these votes were taken by the congregation, not by me. I support them and I’m proud of you for taking these steps, but I’m not King David. This is not my church. On the other hand, I guess it’s not really yours either. This is the church of the Living God in Jesus Christ. What we say is not as important as how we make our witness and welcome to God’s message crystal clear.

This is one of the beautiful things about our country and about the United Methodist church – our diversity and our growing willingness to grapple with the complicated issues of our many ethnic heritages.

Three to five years after I became pastor of St. Luke, we formed a LIFE group our of a new members class which had grown to trust each other so much that they didn’t want to stop meeting. During that time Jon, Lauri, Marilyn, Lisa, and soon after, Virginia, Fred, Lauren, Cathy, and Rick stepped up as the next generation of leaders at St. Luke.

Because this group of folks has prayed together and then found new people to join them in Bible study, prayer and personal support this church is alive today. Because these people have been committed to nurturing and teaching the children of this church to trust in God and to grow God’s community, we are singing together today with new energy and new commitment to the faith.

We have accepted the challenge in a new age to make a place for all God’s people at the table which nurtures the soul and nurtures God’s life in ours. The Living God has been at work through these circles of trust. The Living God has helped us to draw the circle wide, to draw it wider still.

Nine years ago, I had a party at my house, which I called my 10, 20, 30 party to celebrate ten years as pastor of St. Luke, 20 years as a pastor, and 30 years of living in West Philadelphia. I look forward to inviting you a year from now to my 20, 30, 40 party down at my house. I expect it will be a great time of celebrating God’s faithfulness in our community.

I thank you all for the trust you have had in God to allow me to be your pastor for all these 19 years. I expect the 20th year to be just as much fun, full of growing and exciting worship, new relationships, loving children & youth, at least one new LIFE group for young parents, and deepening spiritual connections for the broader community of Bryn Mawr.

This is God’s good news.  Amen.